14.03.2012 - Natural Sciences Sector

For the ocean, business as usual is not an option

Cover, A blueprint for ocean and coastal sustainability: Interagency paper towards the preparation of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

On Tuesday 6 March, an information session was organized at the European parliament by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC) and MEP Kriton ARSENIS, to raise awareness on current ocean-related issues in view of the upcoming United Nation Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

Facing a full conference room, MEP Kriton ARSENIS opened the information session. Participating Members of the European Parliament, researchers and representatives of NGOS, among others, were engaged during the session, which allowed for a lively discussion. Experts presented the main threats to the ocean in detail through comprehensive but accessible presentations on ocean acidification (Carol Turley), overfishing, illegal fishing (Commissioner Damanaki), and loss of biodiversity (Raphaël Billé) among other key issues. Wendy Watson-Wright’s presentation provided an overview of the impacts of human activities on the ocean. She also introduced the interagency report A Blueprint for Ocean and Coastal Sustainability, its objectives and its action oriented proposals for the ocean.

The session was very focused on potential action and solutions. All speakers agreed on the necessity of a strong, renewed political impetus and strengthening the political momentum inherited from the first Rio conference in 1992. Several presentations outlined the importance of science, monitoring and assessment for the sustainable management of the ocean (Ronan Uhel and Rudy Herman).

Some of the crucial actions identified included the further development of existing tools for actions, such as Regional Seas for the protection of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, and facilitating cooperation and synergies through initiatives such as the Joint Programming Initiative for Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans (JPI Oceans). Commissioner Damanaki and Mr Billé also mentionned the possibility of implementing agreement under existing laws, like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC) is keen to play an advocating role for the ocean through the Rio+20 preparatory process, and to encourage Member States to integrate, as far as possible, the importance of the ocean in sustainable development strategies and plans. As underlined by Commissioner Damanaki, ‘Business as usual is not an option’. Engaging key Rio+20 stakeholders such as the European Union, through their institutions, is therefore critical. In this sense, the session was very successful.

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